Buzzing with noise and activity, the Old Quarter is the oldest and most lively commercial district in Hanoi. During the 13th century, several artisans settled along the Red River to cater to the needs of the palace. Later, the crafts became concen trated in this area, with each street specializing in a particular product. Over the years, 36 distinct crafts guilds came into existence, and the area earned its nickname of 36 Streets. Today, with nar row alleys packed with hundreds of small shops, restaurants, and ancient tube houses (see p31), the Old Quarter retains its historic charm.
Street Names in the Old Quarter Most of the streets in the Old Quarter are named after the trade guilds that they once represented. The street names generally begin with the word hang, which means merchandise, while the second word describes the type of product. Streets here include Hang Gai (Silk Street), Hang Tre (Bamboo Street), Hang Bac (Silver Street), Hang Huong (Incense Street), and so on. Today, most of the streets in the Old Quarter offer prod ucts other than just what their name suggests. Even so, the sur vival of this system of guild streets is probably unique in East Asia.